Dr. Marcel A. Behr
The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre
Dr. Behr is the Interim Director the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4) and the Interim director of the McGill Infectious Diseases Division. He was the founding Director of the McGill International TB Centre.
Main areas of research:
- Genomic studies of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex organisms. We study the genome of the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis, along with that of the live vaccine strain given to prevent tuberculosis. The goal of this research is to exploit the existence of naturally occurring mutants of these organisms in order to understand the pathogenesis of this disease.
- Molecular epidemiology of tuberculosis. Using genetic markers, we are able to track clones of Mycobacterium tuberculosis providing an opportunity for refined understanding of its spread among human populations and better application of control strategies.
- Genomic studies of Mycobacterium avium. Using the same platforms developed for research activity 1, we are trying to understand the genomic composition of environmental mycobacteria that can cause human disease, with the goal of developing better diagnostic tests and applying these to epidemiologic investigations.
- Host recognition of mycobacterial infection. Using a combination of bacterial genetics and synthetic chemistry, we are studying the role of host pattern recognition receptors, especially NOD2, during mycobacterial infection.
Main Methods used:
We employ bacterial genetic methods to study the epidemiology and pathogenesis of mycobacterial diseases.
In conjunction with public health investigators, we use molecular biology to create DNA fingerprints of bacteria, allowing us to better track the spread of organisms within the community. This combination is known as molecular epidemiology.
As well, we determine the genetic differences between closely related organisms in order to understand the reason why some cause disease and others are less virulent. We employ a variety of genetic techniques, including PCR, DNA microarrays and whole genome sequencing to uncover the molecular differences within the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, between subspecies of Mycobacterium avium and across the mycobacterial genus.